Exams are stressful at the best of times. This year sees Junior and Leaving Cert students facing circumstances that we have never seen in the history of traditional education. There is no denying that the necessity for school closures has added a multitude of extra stress onto our kids, parents, and teachers. Everyone is feeling the uncertainty and our kids have additional stress onto what is already a stressful time.
This post is for the teen who is struggling to apply themselves to study time. Due to varying levels of anxiety and overwhelm they just can’t (or won’t) discipline themselves to devote the time to the books.
Below are clear strategies and practices to help your child to:
- Develop an empowering mindset.
- Manage unhealthy levels of anxiety and overwhelm.
- Complete a productive study session.
- Get the work done and measure their success.
Plus a few nuggets to keep them focused, help them stay in their power and go on to be the very best that they can be.
First, let’s define anxiety and overwhelm:
Anxiety is worrying about the future and what might happen and/or worrying about what is outside of our control e.g. external events.
Everyone has anxiety. We need it to survive. But when anxiety gets to a level that stops us from thinking rationally and taking effective action, it has gone into unhealthy levels.
Furthermore, when we are in high states of anxiety, we become detached from our internal power.
Overwhelm is like trying to eat an elephant in one go. We forget that bite sized chunks will see progress. The antidote to overwhelm is remembering to do what we can, when we can. And keep doing that.
All we can ever do Is our best in this moment.
The first thing I will say to a student who is feeling disempowered is:
Mind your language. STOP the self-sabotage! No matter how many times you tell yourself that you are so stupid, thick, dim or anything else, it is not true and never will be. Ever. However, if you keep telling yourself so, your mind will believe you.
Negative self-talk will lead to disabling action and further statements such as:
‘What’s the point?’ ‘I couldn’t be bothered’.
Take it from me, you are a child of the Universe. There is no limit to your potential. Your ability to learn, understand, retain, recall knows no bounds. You have limitless ability to imagine, create, communicate, and concentrate. The only thing that will stop you doing all of these things is your monkey mind: the one that keeps trying to tell you otherwise.
If you don’t believe me, try my Study Session Practice.
(note: this is a simple yet powerful exercise that I suggest you do on repetition. Use it as often as you like. The more you use it, the more powerful it will become. Study session times can be extended to suit your needs later.)
Step 1. Think of the last time you were at home thinking about studying and found yourself saying:
‘I couldn’t be bothered’ or ‘what’s the point’.
Rate the power of that thought out of 10.
1 = I didn’t listen to it. I knew I had a lot to give and I got stuck into my study session.
10 = I felt that knot in my stomach weigh down even heavier and went on my phone instead. No study done.
The score you give is your anxiety rate. Make a note of it because you will need this later.
Step 2. Decide on a time that you are going to study. Let’s say 10am on Saturday morning for example.
Step 3. Decide what subject/chapter and/or paper you are going to work on.
Step 4. At 9.50am on Saturday morning sit at your study desk and arrange your books, iPad, pens, and anything else you will need.
Step 5. Set your timer for 30 mins. Put your phone away or on aeroplane mode.
Step 6. Before you begin, relax and take 3 deep breaths and tell your mind the following:
I am super clever.
I am focused and alert.
I am safe, calm and in control.
I can be anything I want to be.
I can achieve anything I want to achieve.
I believe in myself.
Step 7. Begin your study session.
Throughout the session:
1. Be patient with yourself at all times.
2. Stay focused.
3. Only tell your mind kind and empowering thoughts.
3. For these 30 minutes ALL self-sabotaging thoughts are disabled and have no effect.
4. Remind yourself that you are calm and in control.
5. Stay in the moment.
Step 8. At the end of the 30 minutes:
1. Review your progress
2. Bank your success and allow yourself to feel good and proud of yourself.
3. Rate your anxiety levels again. Here is a reminder:
On a scale of 1 – 10 how much power does the following thought have over you?
‘There is no point in studying because I am so stupid and don’t make any progress no matter what I do – what’s the point’.
1 = I am not listening to it. I know I have a lot to give and I am going to give it.
10 = I can feel the knot in my stomach weigh down even heavier and now I am going on my phone instead.
Now compare your score to your previous score.
Is it lower or higher?
If lower why?
Here’s the answer:
Because you believed in yourself. You were kind to yourself. You allowed yourself to listen to empowering thoughts and they took effect. Those thoughts are aligned with your truth.
You are amazing and you can honestly do anything. The truth is that there is no limit to your potential – except the self-limiting thoughts that you think and worse, the ones you believe.
I understand that you may never be the best in class at maths or languages. The same goes for most of us. We all have strengths and weaknesses, that’s what makes us human. But you just need to do what you can do in bite sized chunks. That’s how you make progress.
Imagine for a moment that there is an amazing hero inside of you. She/he holds all the power to achieve everything that you want to achieve. Imagine your hero is bursting to get out. Your hero needs your help. One day at a time. Thought by thought, action by action and study session by study session feed your hero with everything he/she needs to roar and shine. Because if you have read this far – on some level you know I’m right.
Finally, a couple of practical tips for exam prep in COVID-19 days.
1. Stay supported. Teachers, parents, and friends are all rooting for you now. Reach out and ask for their support.
2. Keep communicating. The people who love you don’t always know what’s going on in that head of yours and believe me they want to know. Share your thoughts and how you are feeling. If you share with one person and they don’t respond share with someone else.
3. Remember that every student enters an exam hall with 100% of the marks. With the right mindset you can hold on to most of those marks. Do the work now in bite size chunks. On exam day, you can walk into that room feeling calm and centred in your power, knowing that you did your best in prep for exam day.
4. Think of the day that you are opening your results. While doing so, fill your mind with so much love for yourself that you think you might burst. Now imagine how great it would feel to open that envelope, your result looking back at you. Imagine that the grades you see are much higher than you expected. Feel that joy. Feel that pride. Cry if you need to but get excited. This day can be yours, why not give yourself the experience?
5. Remember your balance.
And eat well.
6. Finally, remember this:
This is all about you. Your experience. Your exams. Your results. You and your wonderful life. It’s not about anyone else. This is about you walking away with a sense of joy and pride in your heart for you, because you loved yourself enough to give it your all and show yourself what you are capable of. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It’s about what you think and what you experience. Give yourself a beautiful one. One that is filled with joy and pride.
Your future self will thank you for it.